You find yourself casually walking amongst the shelves of your local bookstore and your eye catches a particularly interesting cover image for a book. Reading the premise on the back, you find yourself immediately interested and purchase it off the strength of what you saw.
The book is amazing and the intro immediately captured your attention. You have no problems flying though the book at comparable speeds to the roadrunner dashing through the desert (for all my Looney Tunes fans out there). You can’t believe how easily the narrative transitions from one scene to another. All the characters contain depth and the world carries substantial weight to each decision made. You question why you didn’t come across this story sooner to read it.
It’s when you reach the final quarter of the book that things take a turn for the worse. Suddenly everything that had been carefully woven together unravels into a tangled mess, plot holes the size of craters appearing from nowhere and characters begin behaving completely unlike what was built up before. The ending is completely unearned and even worse, makes no sense given how the story had been transpiring before.
I feel this is even more of a problem when I’m the one writing the story.
Rereading my old National Novel Writing Month manuscript (NaNoWriMo) that I did a few years back made me cringe; and it was less so because of grammatical errors or poorly thought out characters (I questioned the purpose of one of my side characters even being in the story, however). It was the fact that I felt like I had a clear premise in the beginning (which in retrospect seems much less clear-cut than I thought) and by the end had so many unanswered questions, that I wondered where things had all gone wrong.
Now let me first remind you that the whole point of NaNoWriMo is to force you to get those novel ideas out of your head and onto paper, whether it be electronic or not. Too many people have “the perfect idea for a book” but that’s all it ends up staying: an idea. So I understand with the 30 day deadline that things aren’t going to be 100% consistent or coherent, attempting to keep up with an incredibly difficult 50,000 word deadline (made even more difficult working a full time and consuming job). But it still doesn’t stop me from thinking about just how important endings are and not for some metaphorical arbitrary check off the list when writing a story. Your characters deserve some type of pay off to their actions by the end. A resolution to the adversity presented in front of them. I still remember my literature classes in high school and the discussion of things like a rising action, climax, falling action, and a resolution when discussing the technical breakdown of a plot.
So what is the conflict in my NaNoWriMo story? How do the characters reach the climax and how do they resolve it? Are there unanswered questions that may lead to a sequel? Honestly, I wish I could tell you because I feel like I need to just do a rewrite after I finish editing the manuscript.
There should be some inherent satisfaction that is obtained once the final page is turned; and while every dot may not be connected the exact way you want it to be, there should be a logical conclusion to the tale. Beginnings are never a problem for me. I tend to incubate an idea in my head for a little while, which in turn grows into a premise that I can begin writing about. But endings are an entirely different animal; and just like anything else, I won’t get better at them until I keep working at it.
So back to the drawing board I go.